Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Joys of Lent

For many people, Lent isn't their favorite time of year, but I always look forward to it. Some Lents turn out to be more meaningful to me than others, but what I enjoy about each one is that it's a time to simplify, to take stock of what's crept into my life that doesn't need to be there and to find ways to work on removing the things that are barriers between me and God.

In fact, Ash Wednesday, which falls tomorrow this year, is one of my favorite days of the year. The distribution of ashes makes me feel connected to Christians throughout the ages who have acknowledged their own unworthiness, resolved by God's grace to try to live more fully in the love of Christ, and trusted in God's love to supply that grace. I have a sense of being part of a greater whole -- the Church. It's hard to put into words but maybe you, too, have that sense of us all as penitential pilgrims going at our different paces, stumbling here and there, but all on our way together towards our Father in heaven.

When I say that I like Lent, I don't mean that I necessarily find it easy. Being challenged and working to meet the challenges is what makes the journey worthwhile. Many people choose to do something positive during in Lent, like taking more exercise, donating money to a good cause, etc. and those are certainly great choices. However, I am quite traditional in my approach. I like to give something up and I have rules. It has to be something I will find it hard to do without, not that I want or ought to give up anyway, like candy; and it can't be something that someone else tells me to give up, which may or may not be a challenge. For example, in our diocese, we are asked not to eat meat on the Fridays of Lent. I am not much of a meat-eater, so that doesn't bother me. I do it but, under my rules, it doesn't count as the Lenten penance. Also, my rules state that I have to give up something different each year because once you've done something, you know you can do it and it has to be a new challenge.

Now, why do I want to do something hard? I think the answer is that it's to do with self-discipline.  As the weeks go on, it will become more difficult and I'm aware that it doesn't really matter in the great scope of the universe whether I succeed or not. But there's something in me that says, "If you can discipline yourself in something that doesn't matter, it's like being a spiritual athlete and this exercise will train me to practice that same self-discipline when it does matter."

So, here's to a joyful Lent - however you may find that joy!

Karen Rose, OSB

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